The idea first formed in July 2012 when Raimond de Villeneuve of Château de Roquefort in the Côtes de Provence appellation lost his entire harvest.
‘I actually lost a year and a half. The hail was so violent that even the following year I only had half a vintage,’ de Villeneuve told Decanter.com.
News of the devastation inspired neighbours to donate part of their harvest.
‘We didn’t want to him to have nothing to do, so we gave him the best grapes we could to replace about 80% of what he’d lost,’ said one of the donors, Peter Fischer of Château Revelette in the Côteaux d’Aix-en-Provence appellation.
Barring cooperatives, making wine from several estates is not the norm in France, which made both regulatory approvals and grape delivery logistics a challenge. But, thanks to help from the local customs team, and a friend who lent a cold truck plus driver for the two months it took to collect the grapes, the wine was made.
De Villeneuve christened the wine Grêle 2012 and that joint winemaking process became the foundation of an association now called Rouge Provence.
‘The association has two aims. To help each other in the face of any major climate event. We have had it all. Frost, hail, fire, drought,’ said Fischer.
As more extreme climate conditions mean France is predicting a smaller 2019 harvest, this is another example of winemaking regions working on ways to adapt, such as the new grape varieties to be permitted in Bordeaux.
‘The other aim is to protect our terroir. You know Provence mainly produces rosé now, about 85%. We find that a bit sad. We think our reds are just as important,’ said Fischer.
Fischer, who produces about 50% red, 20% white and 30% rosé, said many members have a similar profile and the association works to promote and expand that type of mixed production.
To fund operations Rouge Provence, which now has about 30 members, has produced a joint vintage every year since 2013. The wine, a red called Plaisir Solidaire (Solidarity Pleasure), is vinified at Château de Beaupré, Côteaux d’Aix en Provence.
‘Each member buys 1/30th of each vintage,’ said Fischer.
‘Its EUR35 euro a bottle. There’s no profit. It all goes to fund the association and its goals.’